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Independent providers warn against ‘NHS-centric approach’ in health legislation

IHPN says more detail is needed on role of independent sector

Independent healthcare providers have warned that new proposals to speed up the implementation of the 10-year NHS Long Term Plan could be too “NHS-centric”.

A report by NHS England and NHS Improvement says an NHS bill should be introduced to free up different parts of the NHS to work together and with partners more easily.

The recommendations include new provisions to strengthen patient choice as well as a commitment to competitive procurement where it is in the interests of patients. Any new procurement regime would seek to find the best possible provider of care, regardless of who provides it.

David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), said although the recommendations make some improvements on initial proposals, they lack detail on how the proposed “best value test” will work in practice, and how the care provided by the independent, voluntary, social enterprise and local government sectors will be integrated into local systems.

“All of these concerns were raised by the Commons Health and Social Care Committee in their recent report on NHS England-Improvement’s proposals and it is vital that any legislation in this area does not lead to an ‘NHS-centric’ approach to integration at a time when many services for NHS patients are provided outside of the statutory NHS provider sector,” he warned. Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said effective integration is required if the UK is to create a health and care service that can meet the needs of patients and respond to rising demand for care. 
“We are pleased to see that the earlier proposals to enable NHS England and Improvement to direct mergers between NHS foundation trusts have been abandoned. However, we remain concerned about new central powers to impose capital spending limits on providers and this needs to be considered further,” he added.